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Cycle SavvyThe Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body
By Toni Weschler
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Toni Weschler
All right reserved.
Your Amazing and Awesome Body
do you realize that you actually started your life inside your grandmother? Huh? How is that possible? Well, the very egg that eventually became you was originally inside your mother's ovaries when she was but a fetus inside her own pregnant mother! Another way of saying this is that every woman who is pregnant with a female fetus is carrying a part of her potential grandchildren in her body. What? Keep reading.
Let's go back to when your mom was just a fetus. Female fetuses already contain all the eggs that they will ever have. Practically speaking, that means that when your mother was a fetus inside her mother, she had already developed one of the eggs that eventually became you. So if she was 35 years old when she had you, and you are now 16, the cells inside of you today that were once part of the egg that became you would be about 51! The best way to help you grasp this fascinating concept is to simply fill in the lines next to the illustration on the following page with the appropriate names.
One of the major differences between male and female anatomy has to do with when the sex cells (or gametes) are developed. As you just read, girls are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Yet the eggs don't mature until puberty, when about one egg percycle is released. This continues all the way through menopause (the time when a woman stops having periods altogether). Boys, on the other hand, don't develop sperm until adolescence, but then continually produce sperm every day until they die.
your External Reproductive Anatomy
If you have a brother close in age to you, you may remember taking baths with him as a toddler and being perplexed as to why he had this "thing" on the outside that you didn't have. He might have even gleefully pointed down there while boasting about it. Even from a very young age, boys in our society are usually socialized to believe they possess a treasure in which to take pride, whereas girls tend to grow up embarrassed about what they have "down there." Well, that's got to change, here and now.
As you know, you have a vagina while boys have a penis. No big surprise there. But what you probably didn't know is that, in terms of pleasure, your vagina is actually not the female counterpart of his penis--your clitoris is (my what is?).
As you'll see, your clitoris (pronounced kli-'tor-s) is your "special thing." So even though your vagina is one of the things that makes you a girl, your clitoris makes being a girl, well, more fun! There will be more on this a bit later (in Chapter 6), but for now, it's back to your vagina, which should be a healthy pink color, like the inside of your cheek. It has three distinct functions: It's a passageway for the flow of menstrual blood, a flexible muscle that surrounds a penis when a woman has intercourse with a man, and a birth canal for an emerging baby during childbirth.
What protects your vagina are your vaginal lips. They vary in size, shape, and color. Books always refer to two sets--the inner lips, or labia minora, and the outer lips, or labia majora. But in reality, the only ones that are truly protective and even remotely resemble lips are the inner ones. The outer lips are really not lips at all, but more of a soft hair-covered padding.
The first time I caught a glimpse of vaginal lips was when I was maybe three or four years old. I remember squatting on the floor in the bathroom while my mom peed, and being completely confused by what I saw between her legs as she stood up from the toilet. From that angle, they looked really strange.
You can imagine how a toddler might find many things in her young life confusing or frightening if she has never seen them before. Luckily, as children get older, things that were once scary can often become really intriguing and beautiful with familiarity. So it is with vaginal lips.
Now, you wouldn't wear a dress to the prom without viewing it from every angle, would you? Yet, in a certain way, you wear your external anatomy every day. Aren't you just a tad curious? The only way you are going to know what I've been talking about these last few pages is if you actually look down there yourself! I realize that sounds pretty extreme, maybe even a little intimidating, but consider this: a boy sees and touches his penis every time he goes to the bathroom. Perhaps that's why boys seem more comfortable with their bodies and sexuality. Why can't you, a girl, feel the same? Now you can!
You can build respect for your body by becoming more familiar with all its important parts, including those below your belly. So read the next three pages, then find a private place, and grab that mirror. It's time you get to know your own body as well as boys know theirs!
Exploring Down There
Take Out That Mirror and Get to Know Yourself
Find some time after a shower or bath when you are clean, have complete privacy and enough time to relax, and explore what makes you, you. Did you know that the external appearance of your sexual anatomy is as unique as your face? It's true. So the sooner you become familiar with your body, the easier it will be for you to develop a real sense of wonder about it.
Use whatever type of mirror is most comfortable: a handheld or even a wall mirror, as long as it allows you to see yourself in bright light while you are seated in a comfortable position, legs open and bent at the knees.
Excerpted from Cycle Savvy by Toni Weschler Copyright © 2006 by Toni Weschler. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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